Criticising the state land acquisition policy, various farmer organisations held a protest outside the deputy commissioner's officer on Monday and warned the Punjab government against displacing farmers from government or panchayat land, which they had been tilling for decades.
Addressing the protesters, Jamuhri Kisan Sabha president Satnam Singh Ajnala said farmers from 44 villages along the Indo-Pakistan border in the Ajnala sub-division had been served notices for vacating their land as a court had ruled that the land belonged to the forest department.
The land in question measures around 10,868 acres. He added that the agitation against land acquisition was launched in June and five of their leaders had been booked under Section 307 of the IPC.
A number of women from families having small land holdings in the border villages of the Ajnala subdivision joined the protest to slam recent attempts made by the official machinery to force them give up their claim over the land.
Addressing the rally, Ajit Kaur, president of the Janwadi Istri Sabha, which is part of the Left-wing Kisan unions, said the government had no right to claim the land, which villagers had been tilling since early 1960s.
Pointing to an old woman, Bhans Kaur of Chhanna village, Ajit Kaur said the former's family had purchased 8-acre land near the Ravi in the Ajnala subdivision many years ago from a fellow villager. "Citing a court order, the official machinery is asking her to vacate the land as it belongs to the forest department."
Bhans Kaur claimed that some of her crop, including sugarcane and paddy, had been uprooted by revenue department officials, who had come to the village with a large police contingent on June 30. The forest department officials had planted saplings after uprooting the crop, she added.
"Why the government gave us a tubewell connection, if it deemed that the land was not ours," asked Bhans Kaur as she looked around for answers.
Kisan Sangharsh Committee president Satnam Singh Pannu and Border Area Sangharsh Committee president Rattan Singh Randhawa demanded that it was time the government legalised the rights of farmers over land, which they had been tilling for decades. He said Ajnala was just one incident and there were numerous other such cases.